Feldman Looks Forward

NATPE president talks about the changing marketplace

Organizers of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Conference & Exhibition, the premier showcase for buying and selling syndicated programs, are gearing up for the 2006 show (Jan. 24-26). NATPE President/CEO Rick Feldman discussed the industry’s challenges with B&C’s Ben Grossman.

With Geraldo at Large rolling out midseason, does the thought of more launches at non-traditional times in the calendar worry you in regard to the timing of your event?

It’s all a concern, but it’s not controllable, so you just roll with the punches.

What trends concern you in keeping NATPE an active marketplace?

The bigger concerns are the paucity of time periods, the fact that people hold onto their own real estate [regarding conglomeration], and the fact that there are three major duopolies in the big markets. Another is that stations have become somewhat risk-averse, so they want to run something for the eighth time rather than create new product. All that does not bode well for a marketplace.

What will reverse that trend?

Everything goes back and forth. The stations are so against taking risks that, at some point, someone will walk in there—a showman like Brandon Tartikoff—and say, “We are about making TV.” Right now, I just don’t know where it’s going to come from.

Is the growing focus in the business on international distribution a good thing for NATPE?

Everything used to emanate out of the States, and that’s not the case anymore. The dialogue between international and domestic is so much greater now. That is all really good for us if we can attract international attendees. We still get a significant amount of people in from Canada and South America, but we’re now getting people from Asia and China and Russia.

I think the trading of formats and content, as well as the international digital channels here, like TV France and BBC—all of that is better. It’s just a cross-pollination of product, which is what we are about.

What are some of your challenges in running an event that has to cater more and more to the international market?

Since 9/11, our government has made it a lot more difficult to get visas. If they don’t plan ahead, people can’t just get on a plane at the last minute. You didn’t have to worry about those things before.